'There is no fight without sacrifice'. A very common idea that resonates throughout this story. Often the sacrifice that heroes go through is hidden with a layer of Hollywood auspiciousness, where heroes will come back repeatedly to save the day. But maybe we only need to save the day once for our future generations. And for this a huge amount of respect goes to Gareth Edwards for showing us that films don't need to have a, necessarily, good outcome for all of the involved characters.
I get a big sense of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones narrative in Rogue One too, where each and every character seems completely expendable. This happens with no remorse as all of our characters are met with a heroic but sinister end, making this the darkest of all the Star Wars films. It's not like Solo's death scene, all over so quick, or Poe's disappearance act, later coming back in a joyous moment with Finn and then going on to defeat the new Death Star. The characters in Rogue One are genuinely not coming back. Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso) and Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) are both annihilated in an instant and final destruction. Their legacy? an epic struggle, a gripping story, and the schematics for the infamous Death Star, all in all adding some anticipated context to A New Hope in a unique Star Wars addition.
After watching The Force Awakens, a seemingly innocent film now compared, I felt genuinely excited to be watching it again and again after it's release last year. It comes more under the nostalgia and familiarity felt in the original films. And with more of a friendly feel, stooped in glossy low-key cinematography, Awakens is much more entertaining to watch. Rogue One therefore shows us some serious balls, in a non-family friendly watch. Rogue One teaches us a much harsher story, a much harsher reality that life is not all glory, that it's more guts and tribulations. This makes the film a much more intelligent installation to reflect and compliment the next three films (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return Of The Jedi).
The way that Edwards has shot this film, harking to the idea of rebellions started by minorities, closes us off from the rest of the universe. I get a notion of Aliens cinematography whilst watching Rogue One, a certain sense of claustrophobia to a select few locations and characters. Shots are closed in on the select group of misfits that save the universe. There was also an intense amount of focus pulling, which in some scenes came across as quite clumsy, but was ultimately rich in technical camera use. This however is Edwards making the most of his frame, showing all that was enclosed and creating a sense of urgency during this. Similarly Awakens uses this same technique but on a wider scale.
The attention to lighting and cinematography (the mood setting features of a film) created a real distinctiveness. Awakens was all about the hard edged look, it was low key and harsh, whereas Rogue One is a finesse of softly lit faces on a backdrop of harshly lit sets. It's a lot more natural, as if the lighting is only used as a filler and not a key. You could easily create this look with a few lights. Octaboxes as key lights and reflectors or strip soft boxes with the diffusion removed as back/hair lights. The lighting is most definitely a defining feature of this film and is not as stooped in visual connotation as The Force Awakens. An example being the way the villains are lit. Kylo Ren was often smothered in harsh red lights and shadow, whereas Orson Krennic was often lit from below with a harsh and very white light. Two totally different ways of evoking the same things. This in turn created style.
Each character was uniquely captivating and so caused heart strings to be thoroughly pulled, and the weight of constant stresses during the film were actually gladly received in place of today's overly positive, Hollywood layered films. It creates a more profound reaction, and evokes emotions not usually explored in mainstream movie culture. Awakens held 'hope' as a positive which did in fact act as a fitting reprise from the adored originals. Rogue One, on the other hand, holds 'hope' as a word that comes with a consequence of inevitable sacrifice.
Rogue One lights the fire for the first wave of Star Wars films, a much needed change of suite for a continuation of the original trilogy. It's a welcome addition as the prequel to the Star Wars Episodes, replacing the controversial stain left by The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I hope that the reloaded Star Wars is a creative new start to a different end.